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Author Topic: The psychology of a fire exit door
Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1974
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011

 - posted 04-03-2016 11:13 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When I first made my theatre (the building was a paint and wallpaper store before I bought it) I had a fire exit door cut into the side of the building near the screen. And I made a mistake there because I had the door cut in at ground level. I learned that I shouldn't have done it that way when water started coming in under the door if it was raining really hard outside. Fortunately, it didn't happen too often but it happened often enough that I finally had it fixed a few years ago.

I had the door raised about six inches and re-poured the sidewalk outside and raised the floor inside to match the new height of the door. This solved the water infiltration issue, so I'm happy.

I've noticed that people rarely use that door to leave after the show is over. When the door was at ground level it would be opened about three or four times a week by someone leaving that way. Now that it's been raised six inches, nobody opens it after the show for many months at a time.

Strange, since the only thing that has changed is the height of the door and you now walk up a very gradual incline to get to it, and back down an incline when you get outside.

I don't mind -- I would prefer that people keep that door closed anyway. But it's odd that six inches of height would have an effect like this.

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

Posts: 2610
From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012

 - posted 04-04-2016 04:01 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There's something like The Wisdom of Crowds, but maybe what you've proven here is that there's also the Stupidity of the Masses.

I guess by raising the door a bit, it now doesn't look like a normal exit anymore and is therefore avoided by people.

From the time I worked at a theater, I always remember people taking an emergency exit instead of the designated exit, even though it was clearly marked as such and even was accompanied by a warning sign which clearly stated that opening said door would trigger an alarm. I'm not sure it was because some people are just dickheads or if they were really convinced they took the appropriate exit. It probably was a combination of both.

Crowds really operate like herds, so the best way to lead them to the proper door is by showing them, once a few go the right way, the rest will usually follow. Get one or two ushers standing at the right exit at the end of the show and you'll see they'll all take the right door.

It reminds me of this time I attended a fully packed show in a theater seating 500+ people. The movie stopped, the fire alarm went off and the evacuation tape started playing in multiple languages and you could even smell some faint burning. Everything was screaming: Get the f*ck out, yet I was the first one out of the emergency door. The people around me were just sheepishly looking at what to do, only after me and my girlfriend actually went trough the nearest emergency exit, others started to follow. In the end it was just false alarm, just a little popcorn incident which produced quite some smoke. But it serves as an example of how stupid crowds can behave in certain situations.

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